Harrison Butker will line up alongside Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and the rest of his Kansas City Chiefs team-mates on Sunday as they gun for a third championship in five years at Super Bowl LVIII.
It was Butker who kicked a 27-yard field goal with eight seconds left to give the Chiefs their third Super Bowl win in franchise history, in a 38-35 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles last year.
Growing up though, it was a different type of football that the NFL kicker had his sights set on.
The 28-year-old’s dream was to play in the Premier League – following the likes of compatriots Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Christian Pulisic.
Although it was a route he ultimately didn’t pursue, the Premier League loving NFL kicker’s football (or soccer) experience could help inspire the Chiefs to glory once again this weekend.
Harrison Butker is gunning for his third Super Bowl triumph with the Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are the defending champions and this time they go up against the San Francisco 49ers
Butker is one of the NFL’s best kickers – but he originally wanted to play in the Premier League
‘For me as a kicker, one initial thing in soccer, during the flow of the game, you’re having to kick the ball to your target at a weird angle. It’s not like in football during a field goal when you take your steps and have everything lined up.
‘So back to football … sometimes you might get a bad hold; you might trip or mess up your steps, and you must be an athlete and make the kick … having the soccer background as an athlete [you have to] be confident that you’re still going to get good contact and hit a good ball.’
His love of soccer began as a nine-year-old when watching the iconic 2005 Champions League final between AC Milan and Liverpool.
It was the miracle in Istanbul, where Liverpool came from 3-0 down against a much stronger AC Milan side, to win the game on penalties – inspired by one of their greatest ever players, Steven Gerrard.
Back in November, the Kansas City Chiefs were in Germany, as they faced the Miami Dolphins at the home of Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt.
Butker was asked by a reporter about his love for football before the game, and it was there he revealed his love for Liverpool and Gerrard as a youngster.
After admitting he doesn’t get a chance to follow soccer anymore, with American football now his favourite sport, he said: ‘I fell in love with soccer I think it was the 2004 Champions League (2005) AC Milan and Liverpool.
Butker became a Premier League fan after watching Liverpool win the 2005 Champions League in their legendary final victory over AC Milan
Butker grew up a massive fan of Steven Gerrard (right) but also named Michael Ballack (left) as a player he admired
‘It went to penalty kicks and back in the day it was hard to watch soccer games unless it was a big game or (on) ESPN you didn’t really watch.
‘So I fell in love with Liverpool, became a Gerrard fan but obviously Bayern Munich‘s a great team.’
Butker has also been asked about German football teams, in which he revealed he was also a fan of a former Premier League and Bundesliga star.
‘I have forgotten some of the players but a centre-midfielder who played at Chelsea, he was, yeah (Michael) Ballack – I loved him. He had the Adidas predators on. Loved him.’
While Butker played American football and basketball at school, it was in soccer where he enjoyed arguably his best success.
Butker attended the Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Georgia, and in the European version of football he won three state championships.
Despite his regional success in the sport, he eventually switched his attentions to becoming a kicker in the NFL.
Butker is in his seventh season with the Chiefs, having originally entered the NFL as a seventh-round pick (233rd overall) by the Carolina Panthers in the 2017 draft.
Though there are many obvious differences between the two different types of football, from the physicality of the games to the shapes of the ball, there some who believe that experience in soccer is beneficial to NFL kickers.
John Carney, who spent 23 years in the NFL said as per the Guardian: ‘I would say 99% of the kickers who make it to high-level kicking – whether it’s college or the NFL – grew up playing soccer … It’s almost a pre-requisite.’
There are some who believe that NFL kickers benefit from having an experience in soccer (Butker pictured kicking for a field goal against the Los Angeles Chargers last month)
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl-winning kicker Martin Gramatica grew up in Argentina playing soccer and feels that it benefitted his NFL career.
‘I always kicked with a natural soccer style. I naturally lined up sideways. I didn’t take three steps back and two over. It just felt too robotic. I modified my technique to feel free and unrobotic.’
Meanwhile, current Dallas Cowboy kicker is coming off an impressive debut season – after making the switch from soccer.
Aubrey played for MLS side Toronto FC before he made the switch to American football.
He finished the regular season with a 94.7 per cent success rate on field goals and set an NFL record for the most consecutive field goals made to start a career, with 36.
Aubrey boasted a perfect record until the last week of the regular season, where he had one attempt blocked and another hit the upright in a win against the Washington Commanders.
Butker is in his seventh season with the Chiefs after being drafted by the Carolina Panthers
The Chiefs will look to pick up their third Super Bowl trophy in five years this Sunday
Speaking to US TV programme Good Morning America in 2023, England skipper Harry Kane confirmed it would be his dream to play in the NFL.
‘It’s something I want to definitely explore. I know it will be a lot of hard work,’ he told host Michael Strahan, who himself upset Brady and the Patriots in 2007 to win the Super Bowl.
‘I’m not expecting to just walk up and start kicking field goals. It would be a lot of practice, a lot of hard work.
‘But yeah, it’s something I’d love to do. The NFL is something I have been following for about ten years now, and I love it, so I would love to give it a go.’
Butker’s decision to play in the NFL has paid off, and is the Chiefs’ third-highest points scorer in franchise history.
Also, Butker with 117 points has the 10th-most points scored in the postseason by any player in NFL history – ranking seventh amongst kickers
He has made a big impact at previous Super Bowls, connecting with the longest-made field goal in Chiefs post-season history – at 52 yards – at Super Bowl LV in 2020.
Butker then scored three field goals last season, including the kick that won them the championship.
On Sunday, the 49ers will be eager to take revenge for their 2020 loss to the Chiefs – who hope their star kicker can carry on where he left off last year in the sport’s biggest game.